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Submitted on
April 3, 2008
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simple medieval coif by Janes-Wardrobe simple medieval coif by Janes-Wardrobe
a pattern for a simple coif.

The squares are 1" square

1" = 2.8cm (approx)

The centre section may need to be shaped narrower at the back of the head.

To make a simple coif, cut 4 side pieces and 2 centre pieces. Sew the sides to the centre panels, press the seams then right sides together sew all round the coif leaving about 2"-3" (5-8cm) open at the back to turn the coif through.
Do a second row of stitches close to th first then snip the fabric on the curved portions to make it lay flat.

Turn the coif, press the sams and slip stitch the opening. Sew tapes or cords to the bottom of the coif et voila - a coif.

This shape is suitable throughout the medieval period up to the end of the 16th century and possibly beyond.
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Fairy-Godmother Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2010  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Thanks for the pattern! It was a snap to make up in about 15 minutes start to finish without having to bother to make my own and fits great as is.
eqos Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2009
I have a question! I mostly see (with re-enactors) these coifs made with white linen. Is there evidence for the coifs being made with other fabrics or colors?
Janes-Wardrobe Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2009
As far as I know coifs were predominately linen. I think there may have been some examples of silk coifs but these would be high status coifs.

Underwear is cleaned by washing, often with harsh lye soaps and boiling. Linen is the only fabric of the period that lends itself to this treatment.

Cheaper linen would be unbleached gradually becoming whiter with laundering. White linen is therefore a good choice for re-enactors of all status's.
eqos Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2009
Okay, that all makes sense. I've found a few, but very few, depictions of colored coifs in medieval/renaissance art, and some of them had another coif (white) under it, as opposed to the many white/light-colored coifs in the art. But I just wanted to check with someone more knowledgeable ;)
luv2lindy Featured By Owner Sep 23, 2008
This actually worked out fairly well for me.

I started sewing several months ago by jumping right into medieval garb. The closest thing I have to a pattern is looking at things like this to figure out the right shapes, then using muslin mockups. I'm surprised at just how easy I've found it all. Some people think I'm crazy for not using patterns, but I haven't found any that weren't darted or somehow not period or that just weren't what I had in mind. I've even managed to figure out how to fit an upper body block including sleeves all on my own. Each time, I think I'm going to fail, but I try it out and it always seems to work.

I'm hoping to get real sewing lessons one of these days, since I know certain aspects of construction could probably be so much easier.

It's really inspiring to see the beautiful work you've done. I hope you don't mind if I try to make my own items somewhat based on your pictures? Certainly not copy your work, but using what you've posted as a guide. I think I can partly recreate some of the pieces and modify them to fit my needs.
Janes-Wardrobe Featured By Owner Sep 24, 2008
Thank you. :D

No I don't mind you basing your work on mine, in fact I'm flattered. Most of my historical work is based on personal research, extant garments where possible, either from museums or publications, contemporary paintings, and carvings or books like Janet Arnold's and Norah Waugh's.

Modern patterns are rarely any use because they have the darts and are cut in a modern way to fit the body. Early medieval sewing is based on goemetric shapes to minimise waste of cloth and complex shaping gradually changed through the centuries, darts not really making an appearance before the 19th C and then only vertical not horizontal as we see in todays clothing.

I haven't checked out where in the world you are but I do offer sewing lessons - note me if you're interested ;)
Goldenspring Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2008  Student Artisan Crafter
is this men's or woman's? (is that a silly question?)
Janes-Wardrobe Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2008
Not a silly question at all. A basic coif like this would mainly be worn by children and men - often older men - younger men are usually seen wearing more fashionable hats but women are occasionally seen wearing coifs like this as well.

It's a simple, practical headcovering, keeps the hair tidy, protects the hat from the head, protects the head from the hat ;)
Goldenspring Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2008  Student Artisan Crafter
ah, that's what I thought. I was thinking if a coif as a woman's garemnt but that has a different construction.
Janes-Wardrobe Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2008
Indeed - there are several designs of coif for women that vary quite a bit from this design.

I discovered doing this that different people have different definitions of the word coif.

A friend sent me a note asking if I had a coif pattern and this is what I think of when someone says coif to me! But I'm still stuck in the 15th C it didn't really occur to me that it might be for a woman and as it was for early 14thC and I thought I'd seen images of women wearing coifs like this in the 14th C I didn't give it another thought!
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